Preview: Jets (3-6) @ Rams (3-5-1)

JETS SEASON HANGS IN THE BALANCE AS THEY TRAVEL TO ST. LOUIS TO PLAY JETS-MIDWEST AKA THE RAMS.

In this week’s world of the Jets we have once again been hijacked by the always notorious, ‘anonymous sources.’ Anonymous said this and that about guy (fill in the blank), it’s basically an NFL version of Mad Libs, but what does any of it mean? Well, honestly it means very little.

In a situation like this, you can’t put meaning to words without knowing whose words they are. Matt Slauson was the only name that had quotes attributed to him, but of course those were old quotes that have been discussed before, which leads to the question of when are the other quotes from? There’s nothing that indicates any of the quotes are recent quotes, which wouldn’t matter if there wasn’t a months old quote as the only attributed quote and no indication that it is, in fact, an old quote except for these things we call memories.

It may be impossible to place meaning on these quotes without knowing who said them, but as we know that won’t stop people from trying and one of the most prevailing themes seems to be that, like last season, Rex Ryan has lost the team as the player’s find themselves divided again.

Last week Sanchez squared off against his college coach, this week the Jets travel to St. Louis to face ex offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer and the Rams. (JetsInsider.com Photo)

Wait, what? Isn’t it actually just the opposite?

Last year it was players calling Santonio Holmes a quitter and players not backing their starting quarterback. This year there’s no divide, everyone is on the same page, Sanchez should remain the starter. If someone wants to argue the players are tiring of the Tebow talk and all that, fine go ahead, but they’re still backing the actual starting quarterback just like their coach is.

And who could blame the player’s for tiring of the Tebow talk? They’re 3-6, they have plenty of other issues and the backup quarterback is the least of their worries since as we found out last year, many of the players on this team doubted Tebow’s ability to achieve sustained success as a quarterback and this is even after Tebow led that fourth quarter drive to comeback and steal a win away from them. Why should anyone have expected that to change? If there was a backup the other player’s had faith in, there might actually be a divide in the locker room if Ryan continued to stick with Sanchez, but there’s just Tebow and the player’s clearly stand behind Sanchez in this case.

The Jets problems revolve around a lack of talent and depth, not a locker room agreeing in unison that the starting quarterback should remain the starting quarterback. Seriously when was the last time you heard that a team being in seemingly full agreement with their coach that the starting quarterback should remain the starting quarterback meant that the team was coming apart and the coach has lost control?

The thing is even Sanchez defenders have begun to cry uncle. In a way it’s unfair to criticize him as if he’s the only problem because the offense as a whole is a disaster and the cards are heavily stacked against him but he continues to make the same silly inexcusable rookie mistakes and he makes them at the most inopportune times. It’s not his fault he gets brought on and off the field during drives, or has to line up at receiver and then get brought back in and asked to throw for a touchdown on third down, but it keeps happening and as long as it keeps happening he can’t go throwing interceptions and taking points off the board.

At a certain point the why doesn’t matter anymore, just the end result and time and time again the end result simply hasn’t been good enough. Sanchez will continue to be the starter and while it’s getting harder to defend that choice as long as the next option is Tebow the choice isn’t likely to change. Greg McElroy would be an easier sell to many players and fans, but that’s unlikely to happen.

The problem with the Jets isn’t that the team has turned on Tebow or is divided amongst themselves the problem is the options they have just aren’t very good, that goes for more than just the quarterback position, and they won’t find many good options in the offseason or this draft class at quarterback either.

WHEN: Sunday, November 18, 2012 @ 1 pm EST (TV-CBS, Radio-ESPN)

WHERE: Edwards Jones Dome, St. Louis, MO

INJURY REPORT:

JETS- QUESTONABLE: RB Joe McKnight (ankle), LB Bart Scott (toe), DL Sione Po’uha (low back/ankle), RB Bilal Powell (concussion), WR Jeremy Kerley (heel/hamstring). PROBABLE: DL Kenrick Ellis (knee), OL Brandon Moore (hip), OL Nick Mangold (ankle/thumb), DB Eric Smith (knee), QB Mark Sanchez (low back), OL Matt Slauson (knee), DL Mike DeVito (finger), WR Clyde Gates (shoulder), DL Damon Harrison (thumb), TE Jeff Cumberland (wrist), QB Tim Tebow (ribs), DB LaRon Landry (heel), LB Calvin Pace (shoulder/personal), WR Stephen Hill (illness).

RAMS- QUESTIONABLE: LB Mario Haggan (thigh), WR Austin Pettis (toe), DE Eugene Sims (knee), S Darian Stewart (knee).

GAME KEYS:

Schotty’s Revenge? – There’s no need to rehash Brian Schottenheimer’s time here with the Jets, you know that story all too well. The question is will his familiarity with the Jets give him an advantage or will the Jets familiarity with him swing the advantage over to the Jets? To the surprise of zero Jet fans the Rams, while having a better offense than the Jets this year, aren’t exactly lighting the league up as they rank 27th in overall offense (22nd in passing, 220 ypg and 14th in rushing,112.1 ypg and 4.2 ypc) to the Jets 30th overall offense (28th in passing, 196 ypg and 18th in rushing with 106.9 ypg and 3.8 ypc). It’s the same style of Schotty-ball but Schottenheimer was always capable of occasionally delivering a perfectly crafted game plan for specific opponents, of course he could come out with plays the Jets defense knows before the snap, that’s what you get with Schottenheimer.

The Jets defense played great for most of that Seattle game, most encouraging was the pass rush, and the Rams offense isn’t one that should cause this defense many problems. The idea of a team or their ex-coach having an advantage is often made into a bigger deal than it should be as both sides will construct their game plan around the fact that they know each other, but there’s no denying it has the potential to make a difference.

Cortland Finnegan vs. Jeremy Kerley – Kerley has been the Jets best playmaker this year and he’s done the majority of his damage from the slot. Cortland Finnegan is among the best cornerbacks in the league and has absolutely no qualms about covering the slot receiver. Finnegan is extremely physical and, by his own admission, dirty as he once said he wanted to be voted the dirtiest player in the league. Many people don’t like him for those very reasons, but that doesn’t change the fact that he’s among the best cornerbacks in the league. Kerley has done very well this season (muffed punts aside), but he usually gets more favorable matchups by lining up in the slot, with Finnegan that matchup becomes far less favorable. The Jets offense, passing game in particular, has struggled and Finnegan could make things much more difficult for the Jets passing attack if he locks up Kerley the entire game.

Pressure – The Jets pass rush came roaring to life in the first half against the Seahawks, the loss was tough for fans and players to suffer through but the play of Muhammad Wilkerson and Quinton Coples was the one positive takeaway from that game. If that same pass rush shows up in St. Louis the Rams will have a hard time moving the ball themselves, as their offense has many of the same limitations that the Jets do. The defense will likely need to carry the load this week in order to get a win and that means creating turnovers and points as well.

On Offense the Jets need to run the ball with success and they need to protect Sanchez. Overall the line has held up decently, but like Sanchez they tend to break down in the worst possible situations. The Rams have a strong secondary and front line, they can cover and apply pressure, somehow the Jets need to figure out how to get the offense going and they’ll be trying this against a tough defense that won’t make it easy for Sanchez and company.

X-FACTOR:

Joe McKnight- A healthy McKnight is the one lineup change that could help this remarkably inept offense. McKnight possesses an explosiveness and playmaking ability the other Jet running backs lack. If McKnight is healthy he should easily get 10-15 touches this week and a chance to prove he can help this boringly inefficient offense. How healthy is he is a question we won’t really know the answer to until Sunday and will the coaches give him those carries even if he is healthy? They should and it might not be this week but one of these weeks McKnight is going to get an opportunity to heavily contribute to a win as a running back.

Sanchez’s brain – Sanchez doesn’t have a solid pass protecting line and his weapons are few and far between and it doesn’t help when one of the weapons is getting false start penalties and dropping easy passes, but even taking all that into consideration you have to question what goes on in his brain to make some of the decisions he makes. Many times it’s obviously him trying to do too much and make a play happen when he should just take the loss and move on (think sack/fumble last week), but other times he freezes, holds the ball too long then finally telegraphs his decision for an easy interception.

Sanchez has had games where it all clicked and while the Rams defense is very good they’re not so good that Sanchez couldn’t have a good game against them but at this point he hasn’t given any of us a reason to expect him to succeed.

THE PICK: Listen the Jets could very easily win this game and no one should be surprised if they do, but until Sanchez and this offense starts to move the ball with any type of consistency it’s going to be hard to pick them to win any games. The Jets defense shouldn’t have much trouble limiting the Rams offense, but can the Jets do anything productive on offense? Can their special teams not turn the ball over? Again they’ve shown us nothing to make us think those problems will just disappear. This feels like a game the Jets should win, it’s just hard to see how. Either way this game should be low scoring (prediction will indicate that), but of course that usually means a lot of points will be scored which would be a pleasant surprise.

Rams 16-10

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